Monday, October 28, 2013

Guest Post: Should More Breeds Be Added to the Cup?

--Carly Silver

   The name “Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships” indicates breed exclusivity--i.e.,
only Thoroughbred racehorses are allowed to participate in the two-day festival. In 2013, the Cup has decided to switch its parameters a bit, adding a race exclusively for Arabians, the Thoroughbred horse’s ancestral breed, on Friday, Nov. 1. Called the President of the UAE Cup, the contest is sponsored by the Emirates Equestrian Foundation.
   The past few years have seen the Breeders’ Cup expand beyond its traditional seven-race queue. More races have been added to cater to different divisions, like the GI Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, the GII Marathon) and the GI Juvenile Turf. These are all well and good, but what does it mean for the Thoroughbred racing industry when its biggest day is no longer just for its horses?
   For bettors and horse fans alike, the expansion could be beneficial. Bettors probably don’t know how to handicap Arabian races, but they’d be up to a challenge that comes with a significant purse and likely financial rewards. As for those, like myself, who are general equine enthusiasts, the addition of another breed is welcome, since we’d get to see the majesty of another facet of the horse world in action. Arabian racing isn’t too popular in America or Europe, so I, as a fan of any type of horse, am eager to see how it is different from Thoroughbred dirt racing.
   Perhaps more significantly, what does the addition of an Arabian race mean for the Breeders’ Cup brand? Should there be other breeds’ races featured on the undercard, like harness racing, steeplechases, and Quarter Horse sprints? To add a whole barrage of other breeds during the dual-day celebration would devalue the integrity of the Breeders’ Cup. The two days of the Breeders’ Cup has, and should remain, focused on Thoroughbred racing.
   That doesn’t mean, however, that other breeds should be entirely excluded. The Breeders’ Cup used to just consist of one day, then it was expanded to two days of racing. Why not create a three-day festival that features all sorts of equine racing? Thursday could be devoted to multi-breed racing events, but Friday and Saturday would be reserved for the traditional Breeders’ Cup competitions.
   What about other horse sports, like dressage, show jumping, and eventing? Is the Breeders’ Cup the right repository for all equine sports? I don’t think so. As previously mentioned, even if the Cup expands beyond Thoroughbreds in terms of breeds, the emphasis should remain on racing. To diversify so much would confuse patrons and the general public. The other equine sports have their own venues and audiences.
   Indeed, many dressage fans might not take kindly to horse racing, and vice-versa; the respective sports have their own fans. That’s not to say cross-pollination of fans is impossible, but it’s a risk. If one were to add in show jumping or barrel racing, for example, the Breeders’ Cup would be an all-horse festival, which would bear little resemblance to the Cup’s original intent.
   Furthermore, to accommodate additional equine events would be beyond the scope of most Breeders’ Cup-sponsoring tracks. It’s hard enough for tracks (assuming the Cup continues to switch venues from year to year beyond Santa Anita and Churchill Downs) that have smaller audiences and facilities that must be expanded to accommodate incoming racehorses. How would such tracks, or even the larger ovals, create spaces appropriate for show jumpers or eventers? Such spaces are tailored to their individual sports and have specific requirements that a track would be unlikely able to provide. It’s one thing to say the infield could finally be purposed for something besides crowds, but it’s another to turn it into an eventing space full of troughs and hedges. The track would suffer further if guests weren’t allowed to congregate in the infield, thus depriving it of additional ticket revenue.
   I’d be happy to see more racing events accommodating all breeds on a day separate from the traditional Cup events. All the same, the Breeders’ Cup should remain exclusive to horse racing, regardless of the type of horse involved. In that way, the organization could bring in additional revenue and fans, while keeping true to its original mission.

No comments: